Farewell E60 – We’ll Miss You

5-series | January 5th, 2010 by 18
550i_7

I find myself driving down a familiar road, one I’ve driven a thousand times before, in my hometown of Augusta, Georgia. It’s a road that …

I find myself driving down a familiar road, one I’ve driven a thousand times before, in my hometown of Augusta, Georgia. It’s a road that hasn’t changed much over the years though it surrounds the jewel of the city. Further along the road, cutting through the cool, crisp winter air I pass by a small, unassuming gate behind which is a place of tradition: the famous Magnolia Lane leading up to the clubhouse at the Augusta National. For those unaware, I recommend you discuss the event with any golfers you may know around the first of April to get a feel for the gravity of the event. The National, home to the Augusta Masters tournament, has been the stable point of the history of Augusta over the decades long tradition of the course.

Farewell E60   Well Miss You

However, the irony of tradition isn’t lost on me as I cruise by the front gate to Magnolia Lane in a car that also stands for tradition: the E60 BMW 550i M Sport. Though many may disagree that the E60 has anything to do with tradition as it challenged what and how conventional wisdom was applied to the 5 Series lineage.

The 5 Series, after all, is one of the oldest existing model in the history of BMW – starting as early as 1972. With the initial E12 5 Series, BMW began the practice of naming models with a 3 digit designation stating both model series as well as engine displacement in addition to many styling cues that would shape BMW design trademarks of the next 30 years.

Progressing through the models after the E12, E28, E34 and E39 many of the models continued to evolve from the styling of the original E12, the fifth “New Class” BMW, until it came time to replace the highly sexy and highly successful E39. BMW found itself at an interesting crossroad with an even more interesting head of design: Christopher Edward Bangle.

It was 2003 and there wasn’t a single BMW enthusiast, much less automotive enthusiast, who didn’t know the name of Chris Bangle. After a controversial, radical restyling of the 7 Series and Z4, successor to the Z3, the year before, many were concerned that the historically conservative design of the 5 Series would be “Bangled” and have questionable styling. Upon its debut, the 5 Series design received mixed reviews, something relatively new to BMW. With unnatural, sharp cut lines, “Dame Edna” head lamps, and a bit of a heavy-looking rump, the E60 5 Series, 5th in the 5 Series lineage, proved a new style direction was possible both inside and out. Many were shocked to see the still-new iDrive system as a standard feature along with options such as Active Steering and the Heads-Up Display finding their way to the 5 for the first time. While the exterior was turning the design world on its ear, the technological innovation of the new 5 Series was doing the same to the expected technologies on the inside and under the skin.

Farewell E60   Well Miss You

Thankfully for all, under the skin, the E60 5 Series was still a BMW. With rear-wheel-drive standard, the E60 also provided the first U.S. market 5 Series platform that was available with BMW’s patented “xi” designation for its all-wheel-drive system. To power both two and four wheels, the E60 had nothing but the best to offer with drive trains such as the potent N52 3.0L and later the N54 3.0L twin-turbo under the 535i designation. Much of the rest of the world outside of the United States had access to the lovely, uber efficient diesel engines that the American market has so long been denied.

Speaking of Teutonic power plants, I was quite enjoying the 4.8L V8 in the 2008 550i I happened to be driving.

Graciously donated for the afternoon by a family friend, I took the 550i M Sport through its two natural environments, an upscale neighborhood and a quiet yet twisted stretch of road.

Stalking through the neighborhoods that surround The Hill, the area housing the Augusta National, the Carbon Black on Tan leather 550i quietly dispatches the older, awkward roads of a city built well before cars existed. The suspension is very compliant with the undulating roads and, to my surprise, the often-hated run flats coupled with the massive, inverted M wheels don’t ruin the feel of the car. The steering feels tight for the most part, perhaps a little too light, but then again this car has to wear the “sporty” and “luxury” hats at the same time – no easy task.

Speaking of the luxury, the seats are a great throne to find yourself sitting upon. Well bolstered and long in the seat which helps those of us over 6’2, comfortable only begins to describe the cushy seats that hug those lucky enough to snuggle behind the wheel. The seating position of the car feels very purposeful and, while sitting at the wheel, you realize that this will be one of the last E60′s to grace the road. One of the things that makes me enjoy it all more while guiding, is the knowledge that you’re sitting at the helm of a car now 6 generations deep, a continued development of a winning formula that has endured the test of time as BMW has transitioned from a struggling upstart to a world-class leader that took on and then overtook the establishment of Mercedes Benz while demonstrating that luxury and sport can be successfully blended. That sense of tradition is intangible and something that can only be engineered through time, not features nor technologies nor clever marketing campaigns.

The engine is the other remarkable piece of kit on the 550i – as it should be. The 4.8L V8, named the N62B48,produces nearly 370HP – just shy of the E39 M5 power figures and only .2L and 137 HP behind the E60 M5. The 550i M Sport checks all of the boxes when it comes to performance – also demonstrated by the likely underrated official 0 to 60 sprint of 5.4 seconds.

However, with specs like that, I was surprised to find the exhaust note of 550i so quiet when puttering around town. Only when you bury the throttle do you begin to hear the metallic murmurs of the big V8. The Valvetronic-equipped engine is noticeably more quiet than the newer twin-turbo V8 of the current 550i Gran Turismo. So, you can have you performance without it being too intrusive?

Certainly what I’ve come to expect from the 5 Series.

Farewell E60   Well Miss You

After spending an afternoon with the 550i M Sport, a combination of the best bits of M body kit and wheels the size of the M5, I’ve come to realize that I’ll miss the E60 as it finishes writing its chapter in the annals of car history.

Originally, I disliked the E60. The E39 was a safe design, well-balanced and conservative – never a bad move when trying to bolster continued sales growth. However, with the E60 BMW chose the road less traveled and certainly one more difficult by developing a controversially styled car. It challenged what many of us thought that a BMW should look like and what the traditionally middle management, conservative style of a 5 Series should convey about its buyers. The E60 has flair and panache that the E39 couldn’t necessarily convey and for that, I think enthusiasts should be thankful to BMW for moving the goal posts of what a mid-size sedan should be and showing what it can be.

Initially thought to be sacrilege to the double kidney-grilled cars, the E60 now looks just right, a vibrant stand-out in a class of relatively safe, uninspiring design and, I’m no expert, but I believe that the E60 will be fondly remembered as a true game-changer in terms of a design language for a brand that has typically sided with aggressive, forward-thinking approaches to their business and tradition of building truly great cars that endure the test of time. We can only hope that, as BMW ushers the F10 5 Series into the market, it can successfully carry the torch for the E60 5 Series and the previous 5 generations of Bavarians that preceded it.

A very special thanks go out to Dr. Kraig Wangsnes for allowing us to both drive and photograph his car during the Thanksgiving holidays!

  • Chuck

    The E60 was not the first 5 series with AWD. The E34 could be had with AWD in Europe, though it never made it’s way to the US.

    Cheers,

    Chuck

  • Andrew

    corrected!

  • viper

    pity….the outgoing model looks better than new one, how strange

    • Javier

      No, it does not. The old model looks like a drag queen. The tail lights are something I would expect from KIA or maybe Subaru. Finally they got rid of it. Stupid Bangle.

      • :p

        They both look great. Each person has different taste in style therefore some people like it and others don’t.

      • viper

        you are sick indeed

  • Simba

    Goodbye E60. You’re extremely beautiful on the outside, putting mny other luxury sedans to shame, maybe even your son that’s taking over your thrown next year. You will be dearly missed.

    The interior however is not as good as the new one

    Does anyone notice how striking this E60 is on the raod with the orange eyelids at the front??? Will be sadly missed.

  • Parker

    E60 550i Msport does not have runflats.

    Great article anyway. Thanks again BMWBLOG. :)

    • REORocks

      Well it doesn’t only if you remove them like I did. It came standard with Conti run flats which were a gross mismatch for the car. Throwing on a set of PS2s made it the car it needed to be. Incidentally, the “volvo” -ish front end design on the F10 and it’s massive size are hardly anything “classic”. It is a far less nimble car. Many people who buy the 5 prefer something a bit sporty rather than something large and “fast”. If we wanted size and an increase of more than 500 lbs curb weight we could step up to a 7. Decided to skip my bi-annual new purchase this go around and am taking my E60 550i M Sport to receive EVERY available DInan upgrade and enjoy a car that is “fun” to drive. Let the “executive” look stay with Lexus and Mercedes guys.

  • Adnan

    The E60 is my next car and i really adore it, i prefer it without the m sport package though, it looks better without it. The E60 looks a lot better then the F10 so it will really be missed.

  • Uxel

    cheers, great articles!

  • Beowolf

    I will miss the e60 NOT!!! I liked the conservative\subtle styling of the E39s and earlier models. I have owned 2 E39 M5s within the last 8yrs.. The E60 design did not appeal to me then and probably never will.. I waited 7+ yrs for F10 M5.. and still waiting

    The irony is the conservative\subtle shark look is back with the F10 and I will be making a down payment on F10 M5 next year.. back to basics with the F10.

  • okeribok

    Good thing you don’t have a shot from the inside, because the cockpit sucks donkeyballs. fugly!

  • LMendez

    The new one is milles better than this one. That comes from someone who doesn’t own neither ok.

  • badger

    haha
    the E60 5 series was a good car, it brought a new image to the road, despite what some critics say. Hopefully the new F10 can do even better.

  • James may

    This car is a design classic and still looks fresh today.The new one is a bit of a let down. From the 3 qaurter view it looks to much like e90 which is 5 years old and theres alot of them on the road.

  • Andy T.

    39 was the “last Mohican “ E 60-shell with the M-pack (only) was kind of OK.
    Interior wise… the most non BMW and the ugliest interior in the company’s history!
    I hope they will never make this mistake again.
    To me E39 is an iKON.

  • KarlR

    I have an E60 and it’s one of the most dissapointing cars I’ve ever owned. IMO, it’s just a cheapened E39 with an over-complicated iDrive that was clkearly designed by someone that doesn’t drive. If I were head of BMW, it would never have gotten out of the factory. The interior plastics are like a 1990s Ford Fiesta. There’s very little storage space to put mobiles, coins, wallets etc so they just float around on the seat. Tne temp. gauge and boot release button were dropped. On mine, the steering is vague and loose too. Not good enough.

    A Jag next, I think

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